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Fighting for our Housing!
All of us, regardless of where we live, what we look like, or how much money we have deserve safe, secure homes to raise our kids, pursue our dreams, and make memories. Decent, affordable shelter is the most fundamental of human rights—it is not a luxury. No one should have to choose between paying their rent and feeding their family. Stable, safe, quality housing is the foundation for quality of life – without access to safe, secure housing, we can’t have jobs, take care of our families, access food or transportation, get a decent education, or access healthcare. The ability to access affordable housing broadens opportunities for our children’s success and strengthens our community.
Sadly, an absence of affordable housing in good repair has displaced thousands of low-income families –
particularly Black families – pushing them farther from access to food, transit, health care, neighborhood and family support systems, and good jobs.
We must come together to rewrite the rules, regulate rents, and preserve or build housing people can actually afford. For too long, certain politicians and developers have made it impossible for many of us to afford any place to live. They rig the rules to jack up our rents, build only for the wealthiest few, and hoard even more profits for themselves.
But when we go all in for every one of us, we can win common sense solutions that ensure we all access safe, secure homes while having enough to care for our families.
Even before the pandemic, there were increasing barriers to finding safe, secure, affordable housing. Now, especially as prices rise, rent has become one of the hardest expenses to cover, especially in quickly gentrifying neighborhoods. The pandemic had the most severe impact on low-income families, and two major policies were put in place to protect renters at risk— eviction moratoriums and rental relief programs. As those programs have run out, families are again at grave risk of becoming unhoused.
We must stem the housing crisis by providing permanent rent relief. We need long-term Emergency Rental Assistance Programs with clear, simple application processes and equitable fund distribution. We need universal counsel for renters at risk of eviction along with better mitigation measures, and ultimately, an end to all evictions.
In 2016, Pittsburgh United won the Housing Opportunity Fund, allocating $10 million for affordable housing annually, and permanently changing the lives of Pittsburgh families. The HOF helps stabilize and improve Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods by assisting families with low incomes with home repairs, rental rehabilitation, rental assistance, and closing-cost assistance. With a representative oversight board, the community is at the center of fund management and decision-making.
After City Council created the Housing Opportunity Fund to address Pittsburgh’s growing affordable housing crisis, Council finally passed a Realty Transfer Tax; a funding measure meant to generate at least $10 million per year in the city’s 5 year budget plan. This was a tremendous victory, especially for the local residents and families who struggled for far too long to secure the most basic of human needs.
The HOF is structured to address Pittsburgh’s greatest unmet housing needs, prioritizing communities experiencing rapid growth and escalating housing costs, as well as seniors, people with disabilities, and families with very low incomes. To ensure public investment over time, HOF prioritizes tenant purchase, community land trusts, shared-equity and deed restrictions that secure long term affordability.
After decades of decline following the collapse of the steel industry, our region went from a manufacturing economy to an “eds and meds” economy. With that came a boom in development, with tens of thousands of new market-rate homes coming online throughout downtown, Uptown, and in several East End neighborhoods. But this “revitalization” left out the region’s low-income communities and communities of color. Too many of us experience “two Pittsburghs;” one growing more prosperous, and the other cut off from opportunity by poverty, structural racism, and discrimination. Racial gaps grew in wages, employment, health outcomes, and poverty, particularly for Black women. The answer to many of these issues is equitable development.
Pittsburgh United has worked to implement a targeted, intentional strategy to ensure all can thrive in the new Pittsburgh. Equitable development is a positive development strategy that ensures everyone participates in and benefits from the region’s economic transformation—especially low income residents, communities of color, immigrants, and others at risk of being left behind.